Terminator Genisys

When the first two Terminator films came out, I was expecting director James Cameron to make a nice three to four film series taking us in a time loop from 1984 to the destruction of Skynet in 2029. I envisioned it being something like the original run of Planet of the Apes movies. Unfortunately after T2, Cameron either lost interest or the rights–I’m too lazy to look up what happened right now–and less talented people took over the franchise. Keep in mind this was before Cameron forgot how to create interesting and sympathetic characters. The only series that I can think of that was more ill-served by a change in creative vision is Tim Burton’s Batman or maybe Aliens. And yet every time they make a new one I hope for a return to form.

Has anybody else noticed that the line between optimism and masochism can be very thin?

Terminator Genisys actually is similar to what I envisioned the last film in my original conception of the series was to be. It begins in 2029 with the defeat of Skynet. John Connor, played by Jason Clarke, is leading a strike force against a Skynet facility that houses their time machine. They get there too late and the original Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is sent back to 1984 to kill John Connor’s mother Sarah, here played by Emilia Clarke. As in the first movie Kyle Reese, here played by Jai Courtney, is sent back to protect her. But as the time machine is sending him back, he sees John Connor attacked by a Terminator that had infiltrated their unit. When he arrives back in 1984, he finds Sarah already fully trained by a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold again) who had saved her when she was nine. His biological outer skin has aged and he looks old and gray. Reese quickly realizes that his mission is now to fix the future and stop Skynet, now renamed Genisys, from going online in 2017. Trying to stop him is John Connor, now turned into a hybrid human/terminator. Yes they turned John Connor into the bad guy.

It’s a pretty film with good special effects and stunts. The script is moderately clever with some good twists, but there are some holes in the plot and much left to be explained in possible sequels. A lot of the feel of the Cameron directed Terminator films was in the music, those percussive low notes that vibrated your spine. That’s missing here.
The biggest flaw is the casting. Emilia Clarke is lovely to look at but her performance is a little wooden, which is perfect for the diffident and uncertain of herself Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, but here she’s not going to make anyone forget Linda Hamilton. Likewise Jai Courtney is also a little bland, lacking the intensity that Michael Biehn brought to the role. Say what you want about Cameron, he does know how to cast a movie.
Having read some of the reviews, I gather that the biggest complaint people have is John Connor becoming a villain. I thought it would bother me too but it didn’t. I remember when T2 came out there were people who didn’t like Arnold’s robot being the good guy. This series contains time travel and anything can be fixed. If they keep making them I’m sure every character will spend some time on the wrong side.
What does bother me is that like a couple of other series entries this summer, the filmmakers are unwilling to expand their scope. Mad Max films seem to only be about people chasing each other across the desert; Jurassic Park films are only about dinosaurs getting out of their pens and eating people and Terminator films can only be about robots coming back from the future and creating mayhem. There are whole worlds to explore in those series but they cling to the old formulas.
But I suppose if they wanted to make something different and original, they wouldn’t be making sequels.

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